ANOTHER VOICE: Time is running out for Barrett Park grant funds

Hood River Valley Parks and Rec has been awarded a $494,000 grant from the Oregon State Parks Local Government Grant Program via the State Lottery Commission for development of Barrett Park. The District is in danger of having to decline the funds if it cannot obtain the development permit previously approved by the County Board of Commissioners. Without a permit, the money cannot be spent and the land will remain in its current undeveloped state indefinitely.

Given the budget shortages faced by so many agencies, we feel that it is a terrible shame that we have not been able to use this grant money for its intended purpose, which is to fund the initial development stage of a multi-purpose public recreation space. When combined with matching funds, which have already been procured, the initial development stage of Barrett Park will result in disbursement of approximately $1 million to the local economy, providing work for surveyors, heavy equipment operators, landscapers, irrigation companies, and others.

If you agree this money should stay in our community, you can support Parks and Rec by getting informed and getting involved.

Barrett Park is a former orchard that was originally purchased by Parks and Rec as a prospective ball field site after a decade-long search for available land. The 31-acre property’s current agricultural zoning does not allow development of permanent ball field features unless the County adopts a site-specific master plan or rezones the property. However, the current zoning does allow informal open playing fields that could be used to help relieve the community’s critical shortage of ball field space.

The County recently conducted its own extensive search for a suitable parcel for ball fields, and the best candidate identified by the County was an 8-acre former agricultural cold storage facility located ¼ mile from Barrett Park and priced approximately 10 times more per acre than Barrett Park because of its scarce industrial zoning, which the County acknowledged would also bring development challenges.

Parks and Rec has been working diligently to create a site plan for Barrett Park that includes uses that are allowed under current zoning law and that satisfy the expressed interests of our local community. The park’s site plan offers numerous recreational opportunities for a wide range of users: acres of open play fields; a mountain bike skills development area; fenced play areas for large and small dogs; community gardening area; a remote-controlled hobby airplane flying area; bocce ball courts; picnic shelters; a playground for kids; as well as a recently developed extension of the Indian Creek Trail, which provides pedestrian and bicycle access from the Hood River Valley High School.

That previously approved conditional use permit includes off-road parking and a multitude of structural and administrative protections to ensure that park users do not impact nearby residents or farms.

If a 31-acre park with large, level, open playing fields appeals to you, please support us by demonstrating your interest to the County. The Planning Commission must hold a public hearing to revisit its previous determination that the park will not have a significant impact on nearby farm uses, and we expect that the public hearing will be well-attended by people who oppose the development of Barrett Park.

In order to show our elected county officials that these people do not reflect the views of all citizens in the community, we urge park supporters to attend the hearing, as well as the subsequent hearing that will be held if the Planning Commission again approves the permit and park opponents again appeal to the approval of the County Board of Commissioners.

If you have not yet seen Barrett Park, we invite you to walk the new segment of the Indian Creek Trail that runs along the border of the park (accessible from Alameda Road) and enjoy the scenic view. We’re confident that you will easily imagine a jewel of a park in this spectacular setting, and we hope that this will encourage you to invest a few hours of your time at a public hearing to save the $494,000 grant designated for this park.

The Planning Commission public hearing will be held at 601 State St. on Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. We look forward to seeing you there.

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Karen Ford is president of the Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District Board. The letter was cosigned by board members Renee van de Griend, Art Carroll, Glenna Mahurin and Greg Davis.

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